India said it will be monitoring the planned docking of a Chinese ship in a port in crisis-hit Sri Lanka.
Research and survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 is en route to the southern Sri Lankan port of Hambantota and is expected to arrive on August 11.
India tracks any development with a bearing on its security and economic interests and takes measures to safeguard them, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said on Thursday.
Rival nations are trying to expand their influence in the strategic island nation of Sri Lanka.
China has a major say in the Hambantota Port, the commercial activities of which were handed over to Beijing in 2017 on a 99-year lease after Sri Lanka failed to pay its debts.
“China in the camouflage of the Belt and Road Initiative is militarising the Indian Ocean and this is a preliminary measure,” Srikanth Kondapalli, Delhi-based China expert, told The National. “In the event of war between India and China and Pakistan, China could disrupt the maritime trade in the region.”
Yuan Wang 5, a third-generation tracking ship, will dock for a week to conduct satellite control and research in the Indian Ocean, consultancy Belt and Road Initiative Sri Lanka said.
“The Yuan Wang 5 will conduct space-tracking, satellite control and research tracking in the north-western part of the Indian Ocean region through August and September,” it said.
China is one of Sri Lanka's biggest lenders and has also funded its airports, roads and railways.
New Delhi is concerned that the $1.5 billion Hambantota Port will become a Chinese military base and will use research ships for maritime surveillance and to gather intelligence, particularly around India.
A Chinese naval vessel which docked in Colombo in 2014 drew New Delhi’s ire.
India provides significant financial support for its cash-strapped neighbour, currently going through economic and political instability, and provided a $500 million line of credit for fuel.
It has also pledged support of more than $3.8bn for “ameliorating the serious economic situation” in Sri Lanka, beyond sending tonnes of rice, medicine and milk powders to the ailing country since April.